By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Pope Francis arrived in Rio yesterday on a week-long visit to Brazil in the first overseas trip of his papacy to take part in the 2013 World Youth Day (WYD). The Argentinian-born head of the Roman Catholic Church met pilgrims in Rio’s Centro on his first day, and also was welcomed officially by President Rousseff at a reception at the Palácio Guanabara.
After landing at Galeão Air Base to the cheers and applause of waiting Catholic followers, the Pope – the first from Latin America – headed for Rio’s Centro district. When the motorcade got stuck in traffic, one woman passed her baby through the window for the Pope to kiss – just one of at least eight babies that he has kissed so far during his trip.
From Centro, the pontiff used his open-air “Popemobile” to greet tens of thousands of people who lined the streets. The Pope then traveled by helicopter to the Palácio Guanabara – the state government headquarters – for the official welcoming ceremony with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Speaking in Portuguese, Pope Francis said God had wanted his first trip abroad to be to his “beloved Latin America” and thanked President Rousseff and her government for their “generous welcome,” although said he had brought with him “no gold or silver” but “Jesus Christ” – much in keeping with his humble style.
“Christ believes in young people and hands them the future of his own cause,” Pope Francis told those gathered, repeating the festival’s central theme: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The pontiff also called on older generations to provide “safety, education [and] lasting values” to awaken their “best potential.”
A peaceful protest was held on the Largo do Machado, in Catete – one of the access points to the Christ statue – by those opposed to the visit and wanting to raise other social issues gathered. LGBT activists held a “kiss-in” and some women stripped to the waist.
However, later protesters clashed with around 1,000 security personnel drafted in to create a barrier to protect the Palácio Guanabara. Some protesters reportedly threw Molotov cocktails and stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets and water cannon and arrested five people.
Police also announced they had made safe a “homemade explosive device” found at the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida – which Pope Francis is due to visit and hold mass on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Pope has no official events planned, but the Archbishop of Rio, Orani Tempesta, will officially open the event at a Mass in Copacabana.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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